What you need to know:
- Starlets are hoping to seal their second appearance at the 2024 Wafcon after making their debut in the 2016 edition in Cameroon after a historic victory over Algeria with a 3-3 aggregate score.
- They drew 1-1 at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on April 12, 2016, following a 2-2 result in Algeria allowing them to secure their qualification on away goals.
Kenya will on Wednesday host Botswana in the first leg of the final round of the 2024 African Women's Cup of Nations (Wafcon) qualifiers.
The match will be played at Nyayo National Stadium from 3pm, with the return leg scheduled for December 5 at Gaborone National Stadium in Botswana.
To reach the final round, Harambee Starlets defeated the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon 4-3 on penalties at Nyayo National Stadium on September 26 after a 1-1 aggregate score following the conclusion of the two legs.
Botswana's Mares, on the other hand, secured their spot in the second round by beating Gabon 7-1 on aggregate.
Stakes are high as the winner of the two-leg affair will qualify directly for Wafcon finals that will be held in Morocco.
The two teams have met twice in history, with their last encounter taking place in 2015 during the 2016 Olympic qualifying tournament.
Kenya lost 2-1 away to Botswana in the first leg and won 1-0 at home in the second leg to qualify for the next round in favor of away goals after a 2-2 aggregate score.
According to the current Fifa rankings, Kenya is at position 147, while Botswana is ranked at position 149.
Starlets are hoping to seal their second appearance at the 2024 Wafcon after making their debut in the 2016 edition in Cameroon after a historic victory over Algeria with a 3-3 aggregate score.
They drew 1-1 at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on April 12, 2016, following a 2-2 result in Algeria allowing them to secure their qualification on away goals.
Starlets head coach Beldine Odemba has expressed confidence in her team's ability to win Wednesday's encounter.
"There is no team that is unbeatable. It doesn't matter whether we play at home or away, our aim is to win. Despite Botswana's recent successes, we are also on the rise and ready to compete. The addition of Marjolene Nekesa and Sherly Angachi to the team is a plus because they bring valuable skills and experience. I also hope that the fans will come out to support the team," said Odemba on Tuesday after their last training at Nyayo Stadium.
"In our match against Cameroon, we knew that if we didn't win, we would have to wait until 2026 for the next qualifiers. We will fight and won't disappoint our nation. Botswana must fall and 90 minutes will be the decider," said striker Mwanahalima Dogo Jereko.
Botswana participated in the 2022 Wafcon in Morocco. They were drawn in a tough Group C alongside defending champions South Africa, Burundi and Nigeria, but were unable to proceed to the next stage after they finished third on the log.
South Africa finished top of the group with nine points with Nigeria in second place with six points. Botswana and Burundi finished on three points and zero points respectively.
Botswana head coach Basimanebotlhe Alex Malete emphasised the importance of mental preparedness for his players ahead of the match.
"Despite arriving late, we have been working hard to ensure the players are physically fit and ready. This is an important fixture and our goal is to qualify for the Wafcon once again. With a focus on both physical and mental readiness, the team is determined to get maximum results," said Malete at Utalii grounds on Monday.
The Mares arrived in Nairobi on Sunday night and have been training at Kenya Utalii College Grounds in Nairobi. They held their last training on Tuesday at Nyayo.
The Cabinet Secretary for Youth Affairs, Creative Economy and Sports, Ababu Namwamba on Tuesday visited Starlets in training at Nyayo and again repeated his promise of giving the team Sh5 million if they qualify for Wafcon.
"The same support we give to Harambee Stars is the same support we will give Starlets and the same will be done to the junior teams. Our girls will be playing against an experienced side, but I believe we are ready. The government will give full support because we know what is at stake is huge," said CS Ababu.